Gary Bettman will have the final say on when the lockout comes to an end.
The NHL lockout will not go on forever.
At some point or another, the two sides will come together out of logic or desperation.
Whether it's next week or next year, the NHL will resume playing the game of hockey.
It can't come soon enough for all fans of the sport.
Here's a power ranking of the power brokers who have the best chance to make this deal happen.
Brendan Shanahan is the NHL's senior vice president of player safety.
That's his formal title. He is known as the dean of discipline throughout the sport because he hands out suspensions and fines when players commit illegal acts and put competitors at risks with their on-ice behavior.
On the surface, Shanahan has little to do with the lockout.
However, he is respected on both sides. Shanahan played in the NHL from 1987 through 2009, and he scored 656 goals in 1,524 games.
His job allows him to demonstrate his professional concern for the players while working for the league.
If there is any individual capable of talking to both sides, it could be Shanahan.
While there's no doubt that Gary Bettman is the NHL's point man in the showdown with the NHL Players' Association, he works for the owners.
Few owners wield the influence that Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins has. Only Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider has more tenure among NHL owners. Jacobs is seen as a "hawk" who wants to see the players' share of revenue percentages cut (source: csnne.com).
It's doubtful that Jacobs will relent from his position any time soon. If there is a deal to be made, it seems likely that Jacobs will have to be convinced to go along with it unless the players capitulate.
Jacobs has owned the Bruins since 1975.
Most players don't have a lot of influence on the lockout. They have entrusted their future to NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, and it is his job to negotiate a settlement.
When the NHLPA brought three counter proposals to the table earlier this month, 18 players joined Fehr. Crosby was the most prominent player at the NHLPA offices, and some of the other stars included Jonathan Toews, Jarome Iginla and Shane Doan (source: CSNNE.com).
Crosby clearly is the most high-profile player in the NHL, and he will have more influence than any other single player.
Steve Fehr is the NHLPA's second in command. He works closely with executive director Donald Fehr, who is his brother.
Steve Fehr is one of the key individuals involved in the negotiations, and he has regularly been seen as someone who can get negotiations back on track whenever they go askew (source: sportingnews.com).
Fehr earned his reputation as a consensus builder and a peacemaker when he worked with his brother at the Major League Baseball Players' Association.
“I have always regarded Steve to be a positive force in our negotiations,” Rob Manfred, executive vice president of economics and league affairs for Major League Baseball, told the Sporting News. “He was extremely helpful in getting a deal in ’96, ’02 and ’06.”
Bill Daly is the deputy commissioner of the NHL, and he works closely with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
While Daly is no pushover, he tends to look at things with a more optimistic point of view than Bettman.
Earlier in the negotiations, he categorized the talks as being "light years" (source: ESPN.com) ahead of where the two sides were during the stalemated talks of the 2004-05 lockout.
Donald Fehr represents the NHL Players' Association during their negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NHL as their executive director.
He is an experienced sport labor negotiator.
He headed the Major League Baseball Players' Association for many years, and he worked under legendary labor leader Marvin Miller prior to that.
Fehr is a strong and intelligent negotiator who goes about his business without letting personal acrimony get in the way of his professionalism
That may not have always been the case in his early years with the MLBPA, but it is now.
He says his goal is to negotiate a fair settlement, but the NHL has not engaged in dialogue with the NHLPA. He says the NHL has merely presented a take it or-leave it offer (source: NHL.com).
Gary Bettman is the commissioner of the NHL and the chief negotiator on behalf of the league's owners.
His job in the current set of negotiations is to hammer out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players. He is trying to reduce the NHLPA's share of the revenues.
In the Oct. 16 offer made to the NHLPA, the players' share was 50 percent.
In the most recent agreement, the players' share was 57 percent.
Bettman is viewed as a dogged negotiator who desperately wants to win (source: New York Times).
If that means keeping the players locked out, he is willing to do it.
This is the third time players have been locked out in Bettman's tenure as commissioner.